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Chasing the Runner's High

Chasing the Runner's High

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Chasing the Runner's High

4.5/5 (4 valoraciones)
282 página
4 horas
Oct 29, 2010


In "Chasing the Runner's High", Ray Charbonneau tells the story how he pushed his addiction to running up to, and then past, his limits. There are plenty of hard miles, but there's lots of fun along the way too as Ray shares what he learned, what he should have learned, and what he still has to learn from running.

Marshall Ulrich, 4-time winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon and author of "Running on Empty", calls Chasing the Runner's High "a look at one man's life and obsession with running and addictive behaviors. Humorous at times, but always looking toward the greater good, Ray shares life's ups and downs and provides a hard look into the mind of a runner, offering advice that can only be had with experience and hard fought miles underfoot.

Adena Schulzberg, winner of the 2006 Arkansas Marathon, writes, "these are brutally honest tales, told with candor and frankness about strength, courage, obsession, desire and hard won understanding of self and sport."

It's a great read for runners or for non-runners who want to understand their running friends.

Oct 29, 2010

Sobre el autor

Ray Charbonneau is the author of a number of books on running. That number is currently five. He is also the editor of “The 27th Mile”, an anthology of articles, stories, and poems on running in memory of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. His articles on running have appeared in the Boston Globe, Ultrarunning, Marathon & Beyond, Level Renner, Cool Running and other publications. Ray lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with his wife Ruth and their two cats, Felix and Phoebe. Ruth and Ray can often be found running on the streets of Arlington, but Felix and Phoebe stay inside. Find out more at y42k.com.

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Chasing the Runner's High - Ray Charbonneau

Chasing the Runner’s High

My Sixty Million-Step Program


Ray Charbonneau

©2010 by Ray Charbonneau


Also by Ray Charbonneau:

Overthinking the Marathon

R is for Running

Edited by Ray Charbonneau:

The 27th Mile

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Second Smashwords Edition

ISBN: 978-1-45239-399-5

Design: Y42K Book Production Services: y42k.com

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: The First One’s Free

Chapter 2: Life as an Addict

Chapter 3: Stuff - Shoes and Clothes

Chapter 4: Stuff – Gadgets and Gear

Chapter 5: Injuries – When Denial Fails

Chapter 6: Racing is a Rush

Chapter 7: The Long Road to the Marathon

Chapter 8: Going Further - Ultras

Chapter 9: Going Even Further

Chapter 10: Maybe a Little Too Far

Chapter 11: Why keep running?

Appendix 1 - Advice for the New Runner

Appendix 2 - Even More Advice

Author’s Note:

About the Author

Cover photo: Mile 95 of the 2004 Vermont 100 at 5:30AM Sunday morning


Thanks to Ruth Sespaniak, Jim Chido, Mark Bates, Marie Charbonneau, and the Boston Writer’s Meetup Group for their help with the creation of this book. Any errors that remain are all mine.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s talked with me before, during, and after a run, helped put on a race, joined in on online discussions, or otherwise contributed to the community of runners that’s helped shape my thoughts and encouraged me to keep going in spite of rain, mud, snow, and lazy Sunday mornings. I have received a lot of help from friends I’ve met and run with along the way. I hope I’ve paid a little of that back over the years by sharing stories and advice with less experienced runners. Hey, I’ve even written a book.

I’d like to dedicate this particular bit of sharing to:

Dick Thomas, my manager when I started working at MIT, for showing me that even if you’re not a champion, you can still run, have fun, and maybe enjoy a beer or two along the way.

Steve Burton, the late coach of the Somerville Road Runners, who exemplified dedication to being the best runner he could be, and provided whatever help you needed to be as good as you wanted to be.

Ruth Sespaniak, world-champion wife, who’s love and support means more than I may ever be able to tell her, though I’ll certainly keep trying.

Running along Lake Champlain in the

2004 Green Mountain Marathon

Chapter 1: The First One’s Free

I have run most of my life on a small offshore Maine island where the main road is only 2 miles long. I estimate I have covered around 75,000 miles on that single piece of broken road. When you have absolutely no option of running a different or varied loop the only decision is whether you will run or not, and how far you will go. Running out on Great Cranberry Island made me feel at times like a caged lion and when I got out into the world to run a race it felt easy simply because I felt free.

-Gary Allen

Hi. My name is Ray and I’m an endorphin addict.

Most people, if they think about running at all, don’t think much of the idea. They figure that running is for those scrawny, obsessive types. It’s for the guys who don’t eat meat, or would rather go out for a long run on Sunday instead of watching the game.

In truth, most runners are average guys or gals who’ve figured out that the enjoyment and benefits they get from running outweigh the risk of looking odd while running down a winter street in a reflective jacket and spandex tights. But there are some people who go past that and make running a central part of their lives. Some people even fixate on running to the extent that their relationship with the sport can start to look similar to an alcoholic’s relationship with the bottle.

I’m one of those people. If I look at all the running I’ve done at one time or another, it looks a lot like addictive behavior. There’s probably a free publication that describes people like me, available from the government print shop in Pueblo, Colorado:

Your family complains of your excess running. Been there.

Your running tolerance level has increased. It’s called getting in better shape.

You use running to cope with problems or to relax. Absolutely!

You sneak running alone. Alone, yes. Sneak? Never! Well, hardly ever.

You are preoccupied with running. Check.

You rationalize your loss of control over running. Check – I’m doing it now.

Most of your friends or acquaintances are people you run with. Hmmm – my wife, most of my friends, my running club…Check.

You have lost days of school/work because of running. I’ve taken days off to go to a race. Check.

You have tried to quit running but cannot. (A good test is voluntarily going for six weeks without running and not experiencing physical or emotional distress.) Voluntarily? The only time I stop is when an injury forces me to, and I usually start up again before I should. Check.

If you’re familiar with 12 step treatment programs, you probably recognize the behavior pattern. And in spite of all this, I continue to justify my habit by telling myself that running is good for me.

Maybe it’s just that 12 steps aren’t enough? I track all my running in a log. The current version of my log is on my computer. One thing it does is automatically calculate the total number of miles I’ve run since I started logging everything back in 1992. I checked recently, and assuming that my stride length is approximately two feet, I figure that I’ve run just about 60 million steps. That represents a lot shoes. It also represents a lot of time; time to think, time to try out ideas, and time to form more than a few opinions about what and why.

In one of my early attempts at running when I was a little boy, I ran down some stairs, crashed into the sharp corner of a metal fireplace, and poked a hole in my head. I learned something valuable that day. I learned that I could get hurt running, but if I did, I could still get back on my feet and keep going. On the other hand, I didn’t learn Be careful when you run. That comes as no surprise to the people who know me.

George Sheehan, the runner and philosopher, once wrote that each runner is an experiment of one. I’ve continued to experiment since hitting the fireplace, and this book is my report of the results. Those results has been more successful than some, less successful than others. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but that’s how I learned. And that’s part of what keeps running interesting. Every day there’s something new to try, something that adds to the pile of facts, minutia, and trivia that I’ve accumulated.

I’ve learned a lot from other people too. Running is essentially a solitary pursuit. No one can run a step for you. But while you have to travel your own trail, part of what keeps it satisfying is the chance to cross paths with others who are following their own trails. When this happens, we get the opportunity to share ideas and encouragement. I’ve put some of what people have shared with me in these pages.

I spend a lot of time hanging out with other runners. Because of that, sometimes I forget that some of the things I’ve done that you’ll read about in this book are unusual. I’ve accomplished some things as a runner that I’m proud of, but this book isn’t about how great I am. I’ve never been the fastest or strongest runner and I’m OK with that.

I wouldn’t say I’m a typical runner either. Actually, I’m not sure what a typical runner is. Is it a weekend jogger, or a sub-16 minute 5K racer, or someone who plans vacations so they can run a marathon in all 50 states, or a granola-eating, mountain-top-meditating, sure-footed trail runner? Whatever it is, I might be a little more determined or reckless than that. I’ve been known to push myself further, maybe too far sometimes.

How fast or far I can run isn’t what’s important. Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of things when I’m out on a run, or while I’m preparing for the next run. I’ve learned (and relearned) quite a few things about running and about myself while performing my own ongoing experiment. That’s what’s important.

There are plenty of tips in this book, but it’s not a how to run guide. I’m going to tell you what I’ve done before and what I do now, but I don’t believe I have all the answers. I’m always looking for new ideas to try and incorporating the ones that seem to be helpful.

What works for me may not work or may be less important for you. You’re a different person, with different strengths and weaknesses. This book is just more input for your own experiment of one. In the end, you have to decide for yourself what’s best. No one can run for you.

Whether you run 10 miles in a week for exercise or 100 miles in a day for a race, you’ll probably be able to identify with many of my experiences. If I can explain to myself why I spend so much time, often while fighting through pain, on a somewhat selfish, solitary activity, then maybe you'll get something out of that explanation too.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t run or you have friends who question why you spend so much time running, give them a copy of this book. With any luck it will help make it easier for these people to understand why their running friend heads out the door even when it’s 40°, windy, and raining outside. And why that runner needs to spend half an hour deciding what to wear before they go out.

Everybody’s seen a TV show or a movie where a drug dealer tells his customer The first one’s free. Some addictions are that powerful, powerful enough that all it takes is one dose to get started. Maybe it’s a chemical reaction, maybe the feeling just fills a need that you didn’t even know you had. You might not be obsessed yet, but you’ve found something you will try again, even if you have to pay.

My first drinks were from a bottle my parents had stored in a closet. When I felt the effect, I knew I had found something I liked. I didn’t have to earn the right to keep drinking. It wasn’t hard to fill another glass. When I was old enough, all it took was money.

Running isn’t quite like that. There’s a reason runners say My sport is your sport’s punishment. It’s hard work. If you’re considering running, let me warn you - suffering is not optional. You will get tired and sweaty and sore. You’ll be out in broiling summer heat and damp, icy, and windy winter cold. You’ll develop nagging injuries. That’s how you pay for your fun.

It’s easy to give running a try, but a running addiction takes some time to develop. It takes an effort to build the endurance that makes running easy enough to be fun and relaxing. Not everyone feels that the rewards of running outweigh the discomforts. A lot of people drop out before they’re fit enough to run as far as is necessary to get the endorphins to kick in, or they just don’t get hooked on the experience and move on to another activity. Other people grit their teeth and keep a minimal running schedule just for fitness sake. Many people drink, but not everyone goes on to become an alcoholic.

Ask any runner, and they’ll have their own reason for how they got started on the path. If you’re destined to be a runner, all it takes is one. Vanity was the main reason I started running. I ran to keep my weight down, and it worked. As I ran, I found other reasons to keep it up. I took to running and never looked back

Running keeps me thin, and it also helps develop muscle tone which makes my legs and butt look more appealing. That’s a good thing, because runners spend a lot of time in shorts or spandex tights. My wife tells me I don’t look too bad in those spandex tights, for a guy (as long as I don’t pick an exceptionally colorful pair).

Starting the day with a run works better than coffee to wake me up and get me going. An evening run gives me something to look forward to after a long day at work.

Running helps me balance out days spent behind a desk, or nights spent at my favorite bar. As it happens, one mile of running burns off about one beer’s worth of calories. I run a mile in less than 10 minutes, even at my slowest, so unless I’m pounding down the beers pretty fast, running takes off weight faster than beer puts it on.

The fitness I get from running gives me more vigor for my day-to-day activities. I have the energy for whatever it is I’m doing that day, whether it’s dreary, like housecleaning, or something more fun.

Because I run, I can join in with my friends when they’re doing their favorite outdoor activities. Running takes up a lot of my time, but when I go out for a bike ride, go skiing, go on a hike, or play basketball, I’m usually fit enough to keep up.

Can you think of other activities that are more pleasurable with a little extra endurance? I can, and so can your significant other.

I wasn't always patient enough with myself when I got started. Addicts are greedy. I was having a lot of fun with my new toy, and I wanted to do everything -- run faster in shorter races, run marathons, and even qualify to run the Boston Marathon. And I wanted it now. I added mileage to my weekly routine too quickly, did too much hard running, and didn't allow enough recovery time. I had foot problems, knee problems, and spent a lot of time battling colds and other minor illnesses.

I was brought up with a well-developed sense of responsibility (and guilt), so the natural thing for me to do when I didn’t get the results I wanted was to work harder. But I was already working too hard, or working hard the wrong way, and doing even more of the same obviously wasn't going to help. Slowly, I began to figure out the things that were working for me. Even more importantly, I started to figure out the things that weren’t working. It’s an ongoing process, but I use what I learn to adjust my running routine, making changes as my ability improves or I learn a new trick.

The effort has paid off. I like being fit enough to know that if necessary I can run the 10 miles home after a late night show. I like being fit enough to go out for a long bike ride or a few hours in a kayak even though I never train for those activities. I like competing against myself to see how fast or how far I can go, and I like competing against other people in races. I like runners and having running to keep us occupied when we get together. I like eating whatever I want. I like going for an early morning jog with my wife before we split up for the day. I like the meditative state I can get into through the repetitive act of running, a state that often appears in the middle third of a run, after I’ve warmed up but before I start to get tired. I like finding loose change or a lost toy by the side of the road. I like the way I can use running to burn off adrenaline while I think through frustrations that crop up in other parts of my life. I like running in the city, where there’s a lot to look at as I run by. I like running in the country or the woods, where it’s quiet, there’s nice scenery, and the air is fresh. I like finishing a run and knowing that once again, I’ve put in my time and kept my commitment to myself. I like knowing that if I can run for hours in the heat or cold or wind or rain, I can certainly sit through an hour long meeting at work. Most of all I like a nice comfortable 5-mile run, the kind that’s made possible by lots of hard 10-mile runs.

There’s a lot of repetition in running. When you’re taking millions of steps, a lot of them are going to be very similar. But there’s comfort in that too, comfort in knowing that if I just keep running, I’m sure to make it to the finish, because I always have before.

This blurry photo from a 1978 meet in Hinesburg, VT is the only remaining evidence of my high school track career

Chapter 2: Life as an Addict

I started running in 6th grade. Why? To see if I could beat the bus home at lunchtime. I lived less than a mile from school, 11 blocks to be exact, so I was ineligible to take the school bus to and fro for lunch. The second the lunch bell rang, I was out the door like a flash, tearing down Larchmont Avenue to the Sound like nobody’s business. Some days it was close and I beat the bus by maybe a nose, but most days I beat that sucka clean!

-Jim Chido

It's possible that I'm the first running addict in my family. Some people think addictions are hereditary, but neither my parents nor my siblings run. In my extended family, I do have an uncle who ran for 25 years, until one of his knees gave out. I also have a cousin who was a race director for a few years, but she did that to support her town. She didn’t run herself.

It all started when I was a little kid. Like most people, the first thing I did after I learned to walk was give running a try. Once I stopped falling and bumping into things, I was buzzing around the house and yard, exploring my newly expanded world. Running came naturally, along with eating, sleeping, and learning from my parents.

I was a quiet kid. I liked to spend a lot of time by myself reading, but I also liked to get out and do things and be with people. I didn’t always fit in easily with the others, but the games we played gave us something in common to do or to talk about.

My friends and I all ran while we were growing up in Vermont. We had so much energy that we played games like Tag or Kill the Guy with the Ball that were basically just excuses to sprint around the neighborhood. We ran (and biked) from place to place, because we were in a hurry to get to the next thing, and because we could.

As we got older, the games got more organized. I played whatever sport was in season, whenever we had time and could get a group together. I played a lot of baseball, basketball, football, bowling, and frisbee, and dabbled in a variety of other activities.

Sports were also a way to get my dad’s attention. My dad played baseball and other sports when he was growing up, and he competed for his school when he was old enough. After he got a job and started a family, he still got out and played softball with the guys at the office. As he got older, his social life revolved around more sedate ways to compete, like golf and bowling (and bridge). Dad encouraged his sons to play sports, coaching our Little League teams and going to our other events when work permitted.

Time passed, and I was forced to spend more time sitting down. First, I started spending eight hours a day in school, where all the running around was concentrated into relatively short periods during gym class, recess, and maybe lunch. Then I advanced to high school, where they took recess away from us.

High school track was where I first started running as a specific, organized activity, rather than just as play. I wasn't motivated by fitness or weight loss or any of those health-related things. I started running track partly for the thrill of competition, and partly to belong.

I wanted to play, not just sit there and watch the cool kids compete. I was good at schoolwork, but that’s never been a ticket to higher social status in the cutthroat world of teenagers. Track wasn’t my first choice. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit very well, I had no jump shot, I never learned to skate backwards, and I wasn’t big enough for football. The closest I got to playing one of the major team sports was when I tried out for the baseball team as a freshman. After I got cut, I volunteered to be the scorekeeper.

In my sophomore year, I considered track as a possibility. When we had races in gym class, I was faster than most people. And nobody got cut from the track team. Being on the track team didn't automatically make me a popular person at school, but it was better than nothing.

The football coaching staff had spare time in the spring, so they coached the track team. Our coaches were mostly concerned with keeping the football players fit for the fall. The rest of us were on our own as far as training was concerned. As spring approached, we showed up after school, did pretty much whatever we wanted to at practice, and went home. When school let out for the summer, we put training aside. I don't think anybody trained over the weekend, let alone year-round.

Vermont's lengthy winters meant the spring track season wasn’t very long. To get a head start, we held some practices indoors before the snow on the track melted. Runners had two options. We could do short sprints in the hallway, and try desperately to stop before we crashed into the wall. Or we could run the stairs. The stairs were probably better for us, but they were nowhere near as much fun.

When the snow finally melted, we headed outdoors to the track. At practice, the coaches usually left us to run our events multiple times. I guess they figured that if we did the same thing over and over again, we'd get better at it, so around the track we went. Sometimes we had to dodge baseball players while we ran as they shuffled through a lap or two as part of their practice.

I ran the 220, 440, the mile relay, and I high-jumped. I had fun, but without a real training plan, I never reached my potential. That's too bad, because I was young, and I still had the flexibility and resiliency to tolerate the stress of sprinting. High school would have been the best time for me to try running all-out for pure speed. I still have my high school track spikes today, but just looking at them makes my feet hurt.

When I graduated from high school, I stopped running. I went

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  • (4/5)
    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)It's important to know before going into it that Ray Charbonneau's Chasing the Runner's High is not for everyone; in fact, it's a very specific guide geared almost exclusively to his fellow runners, one that has its general moments but that is mostly focused on very specific looks at clothing, exercises, routes, and other practical information that runners must think about when approaching their sport. As such, then, as a non-runner I found myself often drifting off during the wonkier parts of this manuscript, and as a self-published title it also has the common problem of going on much too long about subjects that few will care about (for example, an entire sub-chapter just on the various events that his Boston-based running club sponsors each year); but still, I found the more general information to be entertaining enough, and for sure written at a professional level that's worth your time. I couldn't even begin to attest whether the actual information in this book is helpful or not, but it's at least worth a look for all of you who are more versed on the subject.Out of 10: 8.0